Don’t throw grandpa out with the bathwater. His ideas, music and manners are no longer in fashion but they worked in his day and have served all of his descendants. He is the foundation of our slice of existence. Adolf Grunbaum dismantles Freud, Stephen Jay Gould flays Darwin. It is sensible and kind to acknowledge the locus of one’s presence on the shoulders of giants. It is easy and slyly entertaining to criticize. An iconic thinker remains a giant though their ideas become vulnerable to new science and new art. Who can resist finding fault in an icon? Dismantlers imagine standing side by side with leviathan while running their knife through his kidney or perhaps they marinate in single malt and cigar smoke during a warmly imagined fireside debate with the master - as if he would allow them onto the grounds of his estate.
It’s Oedipal: men dismantle fathers and all surrogates, substitutes, deputies and proxies, wherever a paternal head emerges: whack-dad-mole. whether swerving from or kneecapping the icon. Questioning dogma is an important phase toward maturity but must one be a dog?
The male dreams of hierarchies of assault from the adolescent coursing with new testosterone gunning down an abusive father to renowned scientist SJG spending 1,300 pages to contradict Darwin. There are many levels of the game from the personal to professional and maybe just for the hell of it.
Respect for a flawed elder is a corollary of “Dance with the one who brung ya.” Your grandpa brung ya to this dance of life - this alone warrants respect. ( even if he abused your mother and caused subsequent generations a living hell, cursed with a stain that religion cannot erase) Sometimes it’s hard to tell when an icon is prime for debunking and when they continue to deserve genuflection, The zeit ( zeit: definition: zeitgeist, atmosphere, climate, realm of the acceptable) of that which is open to debunkery changes through generations as rejection, shock, dismay, resistance to the curious iconoclast’s new ideas transforms into respect then awe, a new formula, gospel, installation into the canon, idea becomes axiom. A generation swims in the new, clean water but over time new research tools and a new social milieu bring penetrating questions followed by slicing up of received wisdom like lunch meat, patronizing acknowledgement of contribution, reassembly into legend and finally the bronze statue in the hall of fame.
It is not crucial that a theory be “correct” only that it rattle cages, turn the soil, swerve the zeit i.e. that it inspire thought and action.
Follow the paths of two great works: Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and Picasso’s “Demoiselles D’ Avignon” from shocking outlier, to centrality, to the dusty pedestal.*
Studying the physical structures of animals and plants with the naked eye in comparison to todays research tools is analogous to making a 19th century nature painting and a feature film. One looks closely at things to the best of one’s ability. Perseverance and obsession reap a golden harvest.
The significant activity of the operation other than its residual structure and effects occur at lightning speed at microscale in every cell of an organism ( so what else is new?) Thirty years of biophysics, biochemistry, genetic research reveal operations within cells that are like feature film vs 19th century realism. We get closer to the real nitty gritty. There are big surprises here that in some very prominent cases, contradict key features of iconic theories. Organisms do not evolve gradually contradicting Darwin, Water has a fourth state other than solid, liquid and gas. Acquired traits CAN be inherited - allowing Lamarck back into the fold after 150 years of derision.
rewiring dogma brings to mind the role of the booster rocket from space flight cast off as detritus shortly after launch, once vital - now detritus. Who is doing booster rocket duty these days? Who is stirring the pot? Starting the fertile conversations, dialogue, dialectics. Does it matter if someone is right or wrong if their ideas, possibly harebrained, launch a new realm of science or a new way of seeing?
We underestimate the importance of our philosophers. America has no philosophers as such, no job description - philosopher, seems a bit presumptuous, uppity, high falutin, impractical by definition - we couldn’t need that. Norman Mailer,a prize-winning novelist and essayist our greatest recent contemporary philosopher had no professional locus as the philosopher that he surely was. The French have a job title - Philosopher and it is revered, rewarded, recognized by honored institutions. A wide-ranging mind such as Mailer’s should not have to wander about a public landscape searching for a job title. When he had to be described, it was as a “Public Intellectual” Why do Americans keep philosophy caged in academia? Norman Mailer was a pot stirrer. He was first and foremost a philosopher. He may have been full of BS as often as not but he kept the national pot stirred as much with his error as with his deep perception and writing skill. If he could have been labelled: Philosopher there would have been a perfect fit, as it was, he had to concoct the notion of “The Great American Novel” in which he was in constant pursuit. This G.A.N. was synecdotal of the large hole in his soul from the missing role in America.
….. He stirred civil rights, anti war protest, morality
…..The young fish ask “what’s water?” a variation of booster rocket theory. Social digestion of big ideas from alien dye to the color of the water. Best to change the color of the water with a new idea rather than trying to work backwards dismantling precursors for anything other than educational purpose.
…..Booster rocket ideas of 18th century now taken for granted as the water we swim in: “All men are created equal”, “Separation of church and state”
to do: Read more Bernard Bailyn and track the growth of these two ideas in America through 125 years 1650-1775
Our founders at Boston, Plymouth, Providence had little notion of either idea with their strong belief in “natural” social hierarchies i.e. noble birthright - hey! we were still very northern euro - royal-centric.